Is Twitter a "Must" for Doctors, or Just the Latest Fad?

Andrew E. Craig, MSN, FNP-C

Disclosures

December 22, 2009

In This Article

Advice From a Well-known Blogger

Some doctors have made active use of Twitter and now find it indispensable.

Kevin Pho, MD (http://www.kevinmd.com/), a leading physician blogger and Twitter user (@KevinMD), shared some valuable insights. He noted that a lot of adults already use the Internet for obtaining health information anyway; physicians can use social networking tools like Twitter to steer patients to sources of online medical information that are reliable.

According to Pho, Twitter has many advantages over other social networking tools like practice Websites and blogs. His take on Twitter's advantage? "Immediacy. Twitter has more of a real-time conversational feel to it than a blog or Website and is much easier to update. You don't have to write an article or create a new Web page; you just post a short tweet, and it's instantly available to your followers."

Twitter is similar to an instant message, except that Twitter broadcasts your message to all your followers at once. Pho also noted that Twitter has a place in emergency and disaster scenario reporting. He cites as an example of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India; much of the breaking news' details of that occurrence were reported by street-level tweeters directly from the scene of the events as they unfolded.

Pho estimates that physician Twitter users number in the low thousands. Although Twitter is fairly new, he notes that it has entered the mainstream and is here to stay as a complementary piece of social networking as a whole. Pho offered the following tips for physicians using Twitter:

  1. Patient privacy is paramount. Do not discuss individual cases or provide patient advice via Twitter.

  2. Use Twitter to point your patients to trustworthy online health information sources.

  3. Use Twitter as a tool to promote your practice's brand. More and more patients are using Twitter; those who do are likely to feel positive about their physicians using it as well. More than just a fad, Pho says that Twitter is here to stay and offers tremendous potential.

  4. Remind your patients using Twitter: Be careful whom you follow. Anyone can sign up for Twitter claiming to be a physician.

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